India got their men’s hockey campaign at the Olympics back on track with a 3-0 victory over Spain, in Tokyo, on Tuesday morning.
The eight-time Olympic champions forged ahead through Simranjeet Singh in the 14th minute and added another goal through Rupinder Pal Singh from a penalty-stroke in the next minute after forcing a series of penalty-corners.
Rupinder Pal made it 3-0 from another penalty-corner in the 51st minute, his powerful drag-flick packing too much power and racing through the Spanish defence into goal.
Spain launched an all-out attack in the last five minutes, forcing a couple of penalty-corners, but were unable to breach India’s defences.
India beat New Zealand 3-2 in their opening match and were thrashed by Australia 7-1 in the next.
Spain drew 1-1 with Argentina before losing 3-4 to New Zealand.
India will next take on defending Olympic champions Argentina on Thursday.
India were better-organised than they were against Australia. Manpreet Singh’s men attacked from the start and dominated possession in the first 10 minutes even though they failed to create any real scoring opportunities.
India came close to breaking the deadlock in the ninth minute, but Simranjeet’s deflection from skipper Manpreet Singh’s pass sailed over the goal.
Spain gradually got into the groove and secured their first penalty-corner in the 12th minute but wasted the chance.
The Indians mounted a number of attacks in the final few minutes of the first quarter and breached Spain’s defence when Amit Rohidas’s pass was tapped past Quico Cortes into goal by an unmarked Simranjeet.
India immediately forced three back-to-back penalty-corners in the final minute and from the third set-piece Harmanpreet’s flick found the body of a Spanish defender, which resulted in a penalty-stroke.
Rupinder Pal Singh stepped up and made no mistake to double India’s lead.
Trailing by two goals, the Spaniards pressed the Indian defence hard in the second quarter and play was mostly inside the Indian half.
Spain’s pressure tactics earned them three penalty-corners in the third quarter — the last one coming just seconds from the end following a referral — but the Indian defence held firm to keep their lead intact.
Experienced India goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, who had a nightmarish outing against Australia, had a brilliant game as he showed good reflexes to pull off some fine saves.
The fragile Indian defence, known for succumbing in tough situations, somehow managed to soak up the pressure put up by the Spaniards.
With a two-goal cushion, the Indians were quite content in just defending in the fourth and final quarter as Spain continued to apply relentless pressure.
But in the 51st minute India scored again from their fourth penalty-corner, Rupinder bang on target with a powerful low flick to the right of Spanish goalkeeper Cortes.
Down 0-3, Spain did not give up and continued to attack in numbers while the Indians looked to just defend.
In the 53rd minute, Spain secured three consecutive penalty-corners but their drag-flicker Pau Quemada failed to breach the Indian back-line, led by Sreejesh.
Spain secured another penalty-corner in the final minutes of the game but again Sreejesh denied Quemada.
- TOKYO OLYMPICS
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